As John Peel put it, "To my knowledge, there is no other music like This Heat." The band imploded following the release of their lurching art-punk masterpiece, 1981's Deceit, a terse effort that captured the Cold War climate of fear, imperialism and nuclear brinksmanship. Things had only gotten worse by the time Charles Bullen recorded the sole Lifetones album, For A Reason, as Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Party dominated following the Falklands War. And the guitarist's approach had changed considerably: instead of wallowing in paranoia, he dropped out. For A Reason is a document of blissed-out escapism that mixes dub reggae and Koanic lyrics with the ecstatic guitar squalls of This Heat.
While This Heat was driven by Gareth Williams' oblique strategies, using the studio as an instrument and practicing countless hours, Lifetones was about Bullen finding his groove. At the time, he was lost in the Caribbean and world music wafting through Brixton Market. He found his sole collaborator, Julius Cornelius Samuel (AKA Dub Judah!), while buying a clarinet in a junk shop. A lucky coincidence, as the soft-handed percussionist provides a perfect counterpart to Bullen's riddims. For A Reason's best songs, like dub music at the peak of its powers, have the ability to loosen the body and mind within seconds. Take the opening title track: an organ plays resolutely while Bullen runs up and down the fretboard and Samuel's opening volleys are thrown down an echo chamber. Following a heavy reggae dirge, the guitar soars again, threatening to bust through the Cold Storage ceiling.
Bullen's lyrics are ephemeral, mainly consisting of "do unto others"-type fare. Taken as a whole, they act as mantras, positive affirmations of brotherhood in a world increasingly defined by conflict. The holistic approach to musical traditions also bears out a hippie-ish worldview. "Travelling" places a wild, Middle Eastern-tinged clarinet over a Greek bouzouki strummed with raga-like intensity, laying the path for globetrotting psychedelic punks like Sun City Girls. Like The Congos' "Open Up The Gate," closing track "Patience" begins with a warm, melodic section that's dropped quickly.
Bullen would abandon Lifetones after For A Reason due to a "complete lack of [public] interest." But the next three decades saw the album become a holy grail for fans of weird, inventive and life-affirming music, a remarkable feat for an obscure one-off project. In the liner notes of Light In The Attic's reissue, Bullen recalls how, on the days he recorded For A Reason, he'd ride his bike past a foreboding mural featuring a warhead and a grim reaper wrapped in UK, US and USSR flags. Three decades later, that sort of imminent doom lingers and, thankfully, For A Reason retains its transportive magic.